Michael Lemley, Fanfiction Writer

Think about the TV series you just binge watched, or a book series you recently finished reading. Have you ever wished that your favorite stories would keep continuing? Thanks to fanfiction, they can.

Fanfiction allows people to channel their creativity and use their love for a particular story to create new connections to a creator’s content. Some fanfiction picks up where the original story (or “canon”) left off, telling the untold story of a certain character, or even acting as a prequel before the canon began. Think Harry and Hermione should have ended up together? There’s fanfiction for that. Can’t get enough of the Game of Thrones characters? There’s fanfiction for that.

The fanfic community writes for many different reasons, but for Michael Lemley, he discovered fanfiction through the TV show Teen Wolf.

“I had joined Tumblr and saw a lot of reblogs about the Sterek ship from MTV’s Teen Wolf…Eventually I did watch the show and suddenly my creative wheels were turning, but I realized that the kind of fic I wanted to read wasn’t being written, so I decided to write it myself,” said Lemley.

Lemley originally started writing on fanfiction.net, but later moved to the Archive of Our Own (AO3), an open-source repository for fanfiction works created by the Organization for Transformative Works. Lemley has since written over 800,000 words of Teen Wolf fanfiction on AO3.

“Tumblr and AO3 are bastions of fandom and a place where fans can interact and share fanworks they like,” he said.

Fanfiction can be considered a “derivative work” under U.S. copyright law. But the fanfiction community is protected by fair use because writers generally do not make money from their works and many stories are “transformative,” meaning that they provide new meanings and new forms of expression to the original work, and may also be considered works of criticism or parody.

“Fanwork by its very nature relies on fair use,” said Lemley. “We take images/characters/settings and rework them in new and imaginative ways for the enjoyment of other people who love the same thing.” Lemley has never receive a copyright violation or takedown notice, but is worried that it could happen one day.

While some notable authors such as J.K. Rowling and Joss Whedon have encouraged fanfiction, other authors have not been so welcome to the idea. Novelists such as George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card and Anne Rice have been critics of the fanfic community.

For Lemley, writing has given him an outlet to express himself day in and day out, and he makes sure to write everyday to keep him on track with his daily schedule.

“One thing I could look forward to was the time that I spent writing and expressing myself in that way,” he said. “Fan creators do what we do because we love doing it. For me, it is a labor of love. I work a high-stress full-time job. I have additional obligations, but I also make it a point to sit down and write for a little bit every day because it’s something that I enjoy and it helps keep me centered.”